As a part of my series about strong women leaders of the Real Estate industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Staci Donegan, Associate Broker at Seabolt Real Estate in Savannah, Georgia.
Staci Donegan, Associate Broker at Seabolt Real Estate in Savannah, Georgia, brings unprecedented passion, integrity and a strong work ethic to meet the unique needs of each client. Staci is known for her in-depth market knowledge, uncompromising integrity, strong negotiation skills and a business-oriented approach to real estate. Her unparalleled market knowledge, combined with her data-driven approach to real estate and her ability to listen, has made her one of Georgia’s real estate leaders.
Staci’s unwavering dedication to her clients has earned her the title as one of the top producing real estate professionals in the Savannah market and the #1 residential agent for Savannah’s National Historic Landmark District. A member of the invitational Christie’s International Real Estate Masters Circle and a former financial and business consultant, Staci combines her knowledge of the Savannah area with her background in business and accounting to deliver a highly professional experience for buyers and sellers at every price point.
After attending Clemson University and the University of Delaware and earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting, Staci worked in accounting, finance and account management at The Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta. She also served as a Certified Public Accountant in the audit department at PricewaterhouseCoopers and worked as a controller and chief of staff for the Savannah College of Art and Design before entering the real estate industry.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Real Estate industry?
In2008, I had my own accounting consulting business in Savannah, Georgia. A local real estate broker called me and asked me to analyze her company’s financials during the recession. That broker’s assistant quit and she asked me to fill in temporarily. I ended up realizing that real estate is a fantastic field with incredible potential for agents who have a passion for business, accounting and negotiating. Real estate turned out to be a great fit for me. I love working with buyers and sellers and sharing Savannah with newcomers from across the country and around the world.
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
I once had a client from Sweden whose husband had recently passed away. After we sold her home, she needed to return to Sweden quickly, so I offered to spread her husband’s ashes in a special place he requested. I was humbled to be able to honor her husband’s final wish in a private location that was extremely meaningful to him. That experience was definitely not something you would expect to read in a standard real estate agent job description or to prepare for on a licensing exam. The lesson I learned from that experience is that it’s important to go “above and beyond” for clients and that doing so is something they will always appreciate.
Another interesting story relates to the COVID pandemic. I recently had a buyer who was looking for a home remotely and ended up purchasing a $4 million home in Savannah’s National Historic Landmark District without ever seeing it in person. With the help of the latest technology, he was able to tour the home virtually with me through Facetime and to view custom videos in order to feel comfortable making such a significant financial decision. My take-away from that experience is that it’s important to be versatile, resilient, technologically savvy and able to adapt to meet the changing needs of the client.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Because of COVID, we’re seeing an influx of people relocating to Savannah from all over the United States — and particularly from the Northeast. People are increasingly working from home, and they are looking for quality of life. Professionals are relocating to Savannah because we have direct flights to major cities across the country and incredible natural beauty, three centuries of historic architecture and a rich cultural scene. COVID has really encouraged professionals to re-evaluate what’s really important to in life, and they and choosing to move to vibrant smaller cities like Savannah.
I’m also creating a comprehensive Savannah Relocation Guide that is designed to offer “insider” information that you can’t find in any other relocation guide. I’m really focused on the lifestyle in Savannah and on providing information that people can use when they move here, given the changes I’ve seen in 2020 in terms of what people are really looking for when they move to Savannah. My goal is to share with I’ve learned and to try to help my clients make a seamless transition to Savannah.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
The most important thing that makes me stand out is my commitment to a business-based, data-driven approach to real estate. I’m very serious about approaching real estate from a data perspective, applying my background in financial consulting and accounting.
I’ve also enlisted in help from a talented team of marketing, social media, photography and video professionals who help me offer a full-service, client-focused experience for sellers and buyers. I firmly believe in the importance of working with experts and encouraging them to do what they do best.
I understand the value of marketing and public relations and work with a PR expert to secure national exposure for my real estate listings in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, SouthernLiving.com and other major media outlets. I’ve worked hard to curate a team that is truly the “best in show.” That is definitely something that sets me apart.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’m extremely grateful for the support of my husband, Chris, and our daughter, Anne Chaddock. Real estate is a 24/7 job, and having a smart, strategic spouse and an understanding, supportive daughter is truly priceless.
Chris is a highly accomplished Vice President of Sales at his company, but he always goes above and beyond to help me be successful. He provides incredible insight and strategic input, particularly as it relates to negotiations. He’s my quality control, and checks my market presence online on a daily basis. He’s also my support system and will put up a sign for me or help take care of my family if I need to show a property. I deeply appreciate the fact that Chris is a strategic thinker and has been such an outstanding resource to discuss everything from contract negotiation to my own growth and business development over the years.
Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. The Real Estate industry, like the Veterinarian, Nursing and Public Relations fields, is a women dominated industry. Yet despite this, less than 20 percent of senior positions in Real Estate companies are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what do you think is the cause of this imbalance?
In Savannah, the real estate industry has been led by women for many years. We have a very positive, supportive environment for women who want to be brokers or who aspire to own their own firms.
Nationally, I think real estate industry is changing every day as women rise in power and prominence. We live in a world that has historically been male-dominated, but women are taking center stage in politics and in the real estate industry. I’m excited about what the future holds for women in the real estate industry.
What 3 things can be done by a)individuals b)companies and/or c) society to support greater gender balance going forward?
In order to support greater gender balance going forward, companies need to be extremely strategic and intentional when it comes to recruitment. They also need to emphasize mentoring and to reward leadership, talent and hard work at every level.
Women are incredible multitaskers who truly get things done in the workplace. I love seeing women like Kamala Harris model leadership for young women and show them that there is no limit to how far they can go in life if they work hard. I believe that we are in the middle of a major change in the United States as women assume an increasing number of leadership roles. I can’t wait to see what my own daughter does in the future.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
The single biggest challenge female executives face is the fact that they still have to try to break into the “good old boy” network. Generally speaking, women have to try harder to earn respect. People often assume that men are more capable or that women should take the primary role in raising kids.
However, relationships are changing and the roles of married spouses are changing. Today, marriage is more a partnership, where both spouses needs to work together to get things done at work and at home.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Real Estate industry?
I’m most excited by newcomers in the real estate market. Seeing so many talented professionals moving to the Savannah area is thrilling, and I love helping them find the perfect home to start a new life in the Hostess City. I’m also excited by low interest rates, which make it possible for so many Americans to purchase new homes, and by technology, which his always evolving. Due to COVID, I’ve shown a number properties virtually, using FaceTime and other digital tools to help clients achieve their goals.
What are you most concerned about in the real estate industry?
I’m most concerned about the fact that the future in the real estate industry is uncertain due to COVID. Although the market has been extremely hot in 2020, there’s still a lot of anxiety and there remain a number of unanswered questions about what the future holds. I’m extremely hopeful about the future, but I also realize that no one has a crystal ball. There’s no way to predict how the real estate market will perform in 2021 and beyond.
What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team to thrive?
My best advice would be to know when to delegate and to outsource. I used to spend two or three days writing a property listing, but then I hired a professional writer who can get it done much faster, which frees me up to do what I do best.
Don’t be afraid to outsource tasks that can bog you down. Look to members of your team who are happy to help. You’ll give other team members the chance to shine, which will help your team thrive.
Ok, here is the main question of our interview. You are a “Real Estate Insider”. If you had to advise someone about 5 non intuitive things one should know to succeed in the Real Estate industry, what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each?
Put ethics first. As a real estate agent, it’s imperative to be ethical in everything you do at all times. Always represent your client’s best interest and not your own. Always tell the truth. If you have the respect of the agents you work with, they will be more likely to bring you an offer, knowing that negotiations will always be “on the up and up.”
Build a team of advisors and mentors. Having a trusted team you can bounce ideas off of is priceless. No one can be successful in a vacuum or can do it all alone. I make a point to communicate regularly with my team of advisors and mentors who offer valuable counsel whenever I need to make an important decision. I definitely encourage other real estate professionals to do the same.
Treat your real estate business like a business. You can’t sell real estate “on the side” or treat it like a part-time job or a hobby if you want to be successful. I work 24/7 selling real estate. I live and breathe real estate. There’s no magical shortcut to success. It takes hard work. You owe it to yourself to treat your real estate business like a business because that’s exactly what it is. You have to be “all in” to reap the benefits of your real estate career.
Look for strategic PR and marketing opportunities. There’s much more to selling a home than putting a sign out in front. It’s important to partner with PR and marketing professionals who can help you promote your properties in local, regional and national media and on social media. By partnering with a local PR and marketing expert, seen an incredible return on investment as my clients’ listings are featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Mansion Global and other high-profile media outlets. By partnering with a local social media expert, my listings are able to reach a wider audience far beyond Georgia. My clients are impressed because they know I’m making a real investment in promoting their properties.
Get involved in the community you sell in. As a real estate agent, you’re never just selling a house — you’re also selling the community. Make the time to give back to the city or the town you call home. Over the years, I’ve served on the board of directors for the Savannah Philharmonic, the Downtown Neighborhood Association, the Savannah Film Commission and the Downtown Garden Club of Savannah. Those leadership positions have made it possible for me to meet key influencers, some of whom have become repeat clients.
Because of your position, you are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
If I could inspire a movement, it would be about encouraging kindness and respect for others. I’m a big believer in the value of kindness. We are living in a divisive time, but I think it’s important to accept the fact that people have different opinions and different beliefs. That’s o.k. We can agree to disagree without being cruel to one another.
How can our readers follow you online?
Please feel free to look for me on Instagram or Facebook at @stacidonegan.
Thank you for your time, and your excellent insights!
Thank you very much!